In 2018, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office reduced the number of pending on its docket by 282. In 2019, it cut the backlog again by 302 cases.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
Measures taken to stem the spread of the disease included shutdowns of many court operations, including jury trials. This was the case not only in South Carolina’s 14th Circuit, but across the country and across the globe.
While much court activity stopped, crime continued unabated. As a result, our office’s backlog increased by 1,342 cases in 2020 alone, and it grew by another 500 before jury trials resumed in April 2021. As of May 2021, the 14th Circuit had the biggest backlog in its history.
If our office were to dispose of criminal cases at the same rate as it did in 2019, it would still take more than six years to get us back to where were in 2019. Increases in the crime rate or population would mean it takes even longer.
This is not acceptable to Solicitor Duffie Stone or to his staff. It would mean justice delayed for victims. And it would keep defendants from their right to speedy trials.
As such, the solicitor has crafted a plan to aggressively attack the backlog. This plan was explained at a news conference May 13, 2021, during which Solicitor Stone promised monthly updates to track the backlog. Below is an updated accounting of our caseload, with the number of pending cases in the blue line at the top of the three grafs, and the numbers for disposed cases and new cases reflected in the line charts below it.
Pending cases, January 2019 to January 2020
Pending cases January 2020 to January 2021
Pending cases January 2021 to mid-May 2021